(Lathyrus sativus); aka Chickling Vetch, Khesari, Almort; Heirloom; a Slow Food Ark of Taste legume; Minimum 20 seeds
Our seed stock came from our friend John Sherck of Sherck Seeds who received them from a friend in Italy. Once commonly featured on peasant tables in Central Italy this extremely drought tolerant crop is an "insurance crop" against famine in East Africa, India and regions of the Mediterranean, though prolonged daily inclusion in one's diet as the primary protein source can cause lathyrism. Aboard Slow Food's Ark of Taste, Cicerchia (chi-CHUR-kia) is celebrated each November with a festival in the commune of Serra de’ Conti in the Marche. A hearty pantry staple, Cicerchia, known for their tender skin, are described as a cross between lentils and garbanzo beans.
Grown like bush beans, Cicerchia bushes are wispy in appearance but hardy in stature, reaching ~2.5 feet. They do have tendrils so I suspect they could be grown on a trellis like peas. Unique blossoms produce pods that typically contain two disc-like seeds.
To use Cicerchia in the kitchen it is suggested to soak them the night before in room temperature water and then boil them for about an hour (or to desired texture) for use whole in salads and stews. They make a superb antipasto spread when pureed with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary.
And here's a traditional Zuppa di cicerchie recipe to try!
For those concerned about cicerchia's toxicity, The Curious Case of the Grasspea is an informative article; also keep in mind due to their lectin content common red kidney beans are considered toxic without special preparation.